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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

More on the firmament

 Job 37:18 Can you, with him, spread out the sky,
 which is strong as a cast metal mirror? (World English Bible, public domain)

Job 37:18 Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong,
and as a molten looking glass? (King James)


II. That he had no share at all in the first making of the world (v. 18): "Hast thou with him spread out the sky? Thou canst not pretend to have stretched it out without him, no, nor to have stretched it out in conjunction with him; for he was far from needing any help either in contriving or in working." The creation of the vast expanse of the visible heavens (Gen. 1:6-8), which we see in being to this day, is a glorious instance of the divine power, considering,
1. That, though it is fluid, yet it is firm. It is strong, and has its name from its stability. It still is what it was, and suffers no decay, nor shall the ordinances of heaven be altered till the lease expires with time.
2. That, though it is large, it is bright and most curiously fine: It is a molten looking-glass, smooth and polished, and without the least flaw or crack. In this, as in a looking-glass, we may behold the glory of God and the wisdom of his handy work, Ps. 19:1. When we look up to heaven above we should remember it is a mirror or looking-glass, not to show us our own faces, but to be a faint representation of the purity, dignity, and brightness of the upper world and its glorious inhabitants.

- Matthew Henry's commentary, 1708-10, on Job. (Newton's Principia was published in 1687. I don't know if Henry was familiar with its ideas of the structure of the solar system, but he doesn't seem to have used them, if he did. We don't, always, either. We still speak as if the sun rose and set, when it really doesn't.)

A web site defending inerrancy attempts, with some success, to eliminate some of the difficulties suggested above. However, it seems to me that the best way to deal with passages like that above is to suppose that God, who knows how things really work, simply allowed the views of people who knew (or know) only partly to be represented in the Bible. For example, take this excerpt:

Job 38:31 “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loosen the cords of Orion? 32 Can you lead the constellations out in their season? Or can you guide the Bear with her cubs? 33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you establish its dominion over the earth? (World English Bible)

We now know that the constellations, such as the ones mentioned above, are composed of stars (or galaxies that look like stars to the naked eye) that are far apart, and at varying distances from us. Orion, for example, has parts that are about 26 light years away, and other parts that are several thousand light years away. God knew all of that, and more, but Job didn't. God used the ideas of the time, incorrect as they were, to teach Job, without correcting Job's view of astronomy. Job wasn't meant as an astronomy text. No doubt we have some seriously incorrect views of nature, too.

Thanks for reading!

Sunspots 864

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to others*:

The Arts: A BBC report (about 3 minutes long, video) on some amazing paper folding.

Christianity: Singer Mariah Carey insists that she is NOT the queen of Christmas. Mary is.

Relevant is not happy with Christians who think that there is a so-called "war on Christmas."

Education: (or something) NPR discusses the significance and history of piñatas.

Environment: Gizmodo reports that Halliburton, a large corporation, claims to have lost important evidence related to two different massive fuel leaks.

Health: NPR discusses mask types, with recommendations.

Science: Gizmodo reports on a study that found a hundred or more "rogue planets." (A rogue planet is one that doesn't orbit a sun/star.

Gizmodo also reports that the ivory-billed woodpecker seems to be extinct.

Edward O. Wilson, perhaps the most influential biologist of the 20th Century, passed away recently. 

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

*I try not to include items that require a password or fee to view.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, excerpt 106

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post in this series is hereAs usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. In this excerpt, Murray continues a discussion about persevering prayer. His book is based on Mark 11:22-24.

To enable us, when the answer to our prayer does not come at once, to combine quiet patience and joyful confidence in our persevering prayer, we must specially try to understand the two words in which our Lord sets forth the character and conduct, not of the unjust judge, but of our God and Father towards those whom He allows to cry day and night to Him: ‘He is long-suffering over them; He will avenge them speedily.’

He will avenge them speedily, the Master says. The blessing is all prepared; He is not only willing but most anxious to give them what they ask; everlasting love burns with the longing desire to reveal itself fully to its beloved, and to satisfy their needs. God will not delay one moment longer than is absolutely necessary; He will do all in His power to hasten and speed the answer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Sunspots 863

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to others*:




The Arts: Relevant says that Denzel Washington, as a movie director, starts each work day with prayer. Good for him!

Christianity: Relevant reports on various city ordinances prohibiting feeding the homeless, or making it difficult to do so.

Christianity Today reports on a study that found that (surprise!) people stay away from church when it rains, and also commit more crimes when it rains, and they aren't in church.

Environment: Gizmodo reports that some bacteria seem to be breaking down plastics in the ocean, for food.

Finances: NPR reports that people living in mobile home parks are having their homes taken away, and that US government agencies are facilitating this process.

Politics: The Coal miners' union thinks Joe Manchin should have supported the Build Back Better bill, according to Gizmodo.

Pornography (There are no photos of pornography in the article(s)) linked here): Relevant writes about Billie Eilish, who was addicted to pornography as a child, and discusses women being addicted to pornography.

Science: Gizmodo reports that scientists have had some success in transplanting a pig's organ into a human.

NPR reports that a large eagle from Asia has been flying around North America for nearly a year.

Sports: FiveThirtyEight reports on new ways of tracking all sorts of data during basketball games.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

*I try not to include items that require a password or fee to view.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, excerpt 105

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post in this series is hereAs usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. In this excerpt, Murray continues a discussion about persevering prayer. His book is based on Mark 11:22-24.

‘And He spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint. . . . And the Lord said, Hear what the unrighteous judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry to Him day and night, and He is long-suffering over them? I say unto you, that He will avenge them speedily.’—Luke xviii. 1-8.
OF all the mysteries of the prayer world, the need of persevering prayer is one of the greatest. That the Lord, who is so loving and longing to bless, should have to be supplicated time after time, sometimes year after year, before the answer comes, we cannot easily understand. It is also one of the greatest practical difficulties in the exercise of believing prayer.
When, after persevering supplication, our prayer remains unanswered, it is often easiest for our slothful flesh, and it has all the appearance of pious submission, to think that we must now cease praying, because God may have His secret reason for withholding His answer to our request. It is by faith alone that the difficulty is overcome. When once faith has taken its stand upon God’s word, and the Name of Jesus, and has yielded itself to the leading of the Spirit to seek God’s will and honour alone in its prayer, it need not be discouraged by delay. It knows from Scripture that the power of believing prayer is simply irresistible; real faith can never be disappointed. It knows how, just as water, to exercise the irresistible power it can have, must be gathered up and accumulated, until the stream can come down in full force, there must often be a heaping up of prayer, until God sees that the measure is full, and the answer comes. It knows how, just as the ploughman has to take his ten thousand steps, and sow his ten thousand seeds, each one a part of the preparation for the final harvest, so there is a need-be for oft-repeated persevering prayer, all working out some desired blessing. It knows for certain that not a single believing prayer can fail of its effect in heaven, but has its influence, and is treasured up to work out an answer in due time to him who persevereth to the end. It knows that it has to do not with human thoughts or possibilities, but with the word of the living God. And so even as Abraham through so many years ‘in hope believed against hope,’ and then ‘through faith
and patience inherited the promise,’ it counts that the long-suffering of the Lord is salvation, waiting and hasting unto the coming of its Lord to fulfil His promise.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Sunspots 862

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to others*:



Christianity: Christianity Today reports on a survey that indicates that most Americans don't believe that Christ existed before His birth.

Relevant on why many Christians do not follow the Biblical mandate to care for the poor.

Environment: Gizmodo summarizes the ways in which oil companies have controlled our thinking and actions.

NPR reports that temperature records have recently been broken, all over the earth.

Finances: Gizmodo describes a study that indicates that Lego sets are a better investment than gold or stocks.

Health: Gizmodo reports that a court decision has caused county health departments in Missouri to stop all work, and all restrictions, related to COVID.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight analyzes Donald Trump's endorsements. He's endorsing more people earlier, and, in some cases, endorsed Republican challengers to a Republican incumbent.

Science: Astronomers have discovered a very large planet in a nearby solar system, according to Gizmodo.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

*I try not to include items that require a password or fee to view.

Thanks for reading.

 

Monday, December 13, 2021

The Firmament of the Hebrews

The Blue Letter Bible says the following about the Hebrew word firmament, which occurs first in Genesis 1:6, and again in Genesis 1:14: (quotation in this color)

The KJV translates Strong's H7549 in the following manner: firmament (17x).

Outline of Biblical Usage

    extended surface (solid), expanse, firmament

        expanse (flat as base, support)

        firmament (of vault of heaven supporting waters above)

            considered by Hebrews as solid and supporting 'waters' above

            Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)

            רָקִיעַ râqîyaʻ, raw-kee'-ah; from H7554; properly, an expanse, i.e. the firmament or (apparently) visible arch of the sky


The same Hebrew word occurs several times in Genesis 1, and also in Psalm 19:1 and Psalm 150:1. It is repeated 4 times in Ezekiel 1, and also in Ezekiel 10:1 and Daniel 12:3.

Based on the Blue Letter Bible excerpt, the ancient Hebrews believed that there was a firmament, a structure of some kind, that held up the waters in the sky. Here are some more statements of that belief, from the Wikipedia:

In biblical cosmology, the firmament is the vast solid dome created by God on the second day to divide the primal sea (called tehom) into upper and lower portions so that the dry land could appear.

The Hebrews believed the sky was a solid dome with the Sun, Moon, planets and stars embedded in it.[9] According to The Jewish Encyclopedia:

The Hebrews regarded the earth as a plain or a hill figured like a hemisphere, swimming on water. Over this is arched the solid vault of heaven. To this vault are fastened the lights, the stars. So slight is this elevation that birds may rise to it and fly along its expanse.

No structure of this kind exists, as far as we know, and the earth is not the center of the universe or the solar system. That doesn't mean that the Bible is wrong. It was just written from the world view of the people who wrote it, and the culture of those who read it. They had a mistaken view of the solar system. We still say that the sun rises and sets, but it doesn't really. The earth rotates. But we aren't wrong if we say it does, and our literature and common discourse use "sunrise" and "sunset." We write and speak from our world view. So did the authors and original recipients of the Bible.

Thanks for reading.


Note added, December 23, 2021:

Joel Edmund Anderson, who firmly believes that Genesis 1-11 was not meant to be taken literally, says that he is not convinced that the ancient Hebrews believed in an actual physical firmament.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, excerpt 104

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post in this series is hereAs usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. In this excerpt, Murray continues a discussion about persevering prayer. His book is based on Mark 11:22-24.

Let it be thus whether you pray for yourself, or for others. All labour, bodily or mental, needs time and effort: we must give up ourselves to it. Nature discovers her secrets and yields her treasures only to diligent and thoughtful labour. However little we can understand it, in the spiritual husbandry it is the same: the seed we sow in the soil of heaven, the efforts we put forth, and the influence we seek to exert in the world above, need our whole being:
we must
give ourselves to prayer. But let us hold fast the great confidence, that in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

And let us specially learn the lesson as we pray for the Church of Christ. She is indeed as the poor widow, in the absence of her Lord, apparently at the mercy of her adversary, helpless to obtain redress. Let us, when we pray for His Church or any portion of it, under the power of the world, asking Him to visit her with the mighty workings of His Spirit and to prepare her for His coming, let us pray in the assured faith: prayer does help, praying always and not fainting will bring the answer. Only give God time. And then keep crying day and night. ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry to Him day and night, and He is long-suffering over them. I say unto you, He will avenge them speedily.’

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Sunspots 861

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to others*:


Christianity: Relevant tells us that Christmas was not largely stolen from pagan celebrations.

Computing: Gizmodo reports that Microsoft is making progress on storing information in DNA, rather than on tape or in other ways usually used in computers.

Environment: The Biden administration is approving fossil fuel leases at a higher rate than the Trump administration did, according to Gizmodo.

Health: (and Politics) NPR reports that counties that were strongly pro-Trump in the last election have "far higher death rates. [from COVID]"

Politics: FiveThirtyEight tells us what Americans really think about abortion.

Science: Gizmodo reports on a study that indicates that dog breeds are highly inbred.

Gizmodo reports that four states experienced record high temperatures for December.

Gizmodo also reports on bees that survived a volcanic eruption.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

*I try not to include items that require a password or fee to view.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 06, 2021

The moon can be an absentee ruler: Problems with reading Genesis 1 and 2 as history.

Some Christians believe that Genesis 1 was meant to be read as history, and sets forth events in sequence. (See my previous post for further discussion of interpreting Genesis 1.) 

There are some problems with reading Genesis 1 as history, setting forth events in sequence. Here are some of them:

1) Light appears on the first day, but the sun and moon (which are not named, probably as a warning against worshiping them) are not mentioned until the fourth day.

2) The sun is described as ruling the day, and the moon as ruling the night. Surely the ancient Hebrews (and God!) knew full well that the moon appears during the day on most days, for periods up to almost the entire length of that day, and is not always present during the night. How can the moon rule the night on nights when it doesn't appear?

The above photo, taken in daylight, shows that the moon was clearly visible, and the sun was clearly shining. That means that, on the other side of the earth, neither the moon nor the sun was visible in the sky, at that time. Photo from Laura Suarez (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu).

3) Genesis 1 describes a firmament (or expanse) as being created on the second day. The problem with that is that there is no firmament. Ancient peoples believed that there was one, and supposed that various celestial objects, and clouds, were held up by this structure. There is no firmament. The moon, the sun, the stars, galaxies, planets, comets and asteroids are not held up by any sort of glass sphere, or invisible framework (unless you count gravity as such). They are at distances that vary by orders of magnitude -- the moon is relatively close to us, the Magellanic Clouds much further away, so that there is no way that both of these could be held up by one structure surrounding the earth. The earth is not the center of the solar system.

How do I explain these problems? Is the Bible wrong?

I would argue that the Bible is not wrong. It was not meant to be a textbook of astronomy, or geology, or biology. It was meant to tell us about God, the single wonderful, wise creator, and His sovereignty over the creation. God used the language and ideas of the culture of the time. People of that day believed that there was a firmament, so God allowed the description of the creation to include this. Today, we say "sunset" and "sunrise," even though the sun doesn't really rise, or set -- the earth's rotation makes it seem that it rises and sets. If, for example, a news reporter or a novelist says that an event happened at sunrise, we don't accuse her of ignorance or deception.* These ideas are part of our culture, and communicate within that culture, whereas saying "the earth rotated so that the sun appeared on the horizon in Central Africa," is unnecessarily cumbersome and confusing. The idea of a firmament, in Bible times, communicated with others.

Added Dec 13, 2021: For more on the firmament and the Hebrews, see here.

Thank you for reading!

*There are other examples of this sort of thing, such as acting as if or communicating that gravity is an attractive force, because it's ingrained in our culture. If I understand Einstein, gravity is because of space being warped, so that two objects travel toward each other in space-time, and it isn't really an attractive force. The more up-to-date Einsteinian explanation of gravity was used frequently in Star Trek. ("warp speed") But we write and talk about falling downstairs, for example.

Another example of how culture makes communication unscientific is the use of heart for the seat of the emotions.

It is likely that some current ideas about how things work, from the submicroscopic to the galactic, will seem foolish to people in the future centuries. (If there are to be future centuries.)

Sunday, December 05, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, excerpt 103

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post in this series is hereAs usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. In this excerpt, Murray continues a discussion about persevering prayer. His book is based on Mark 11:22-24.

Our great danger in this school of the answer delayed, is the temptation to think that, after all, it may not be God’s will to give us what we ask. If our prayer be according to God’s word, and under the leading of the Spirit, let us not give way to these fears. Let us learn to give God time. God needs time with us. If we only give Him time, that is, time in the daily fellowship with Himself, for Him to exercise the full influence of His presence on us, and time, day by day, in the course of our being kept waiting, for faith to prove its reality and to fill our whole being, He Himself will lead us from faith to vision; we shall see the glory of God. Let no delay shake our faith. Of faith it holds good: first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Each believing prayer brings a step nearer the final victory. Each believing prayer helps to ripen the fruit and bring us nearer to it; it fills up the measure of prayer and faith known to God alone; it conquers the hindrances in the unseen world; it hastens the end. Child of God! give the Father time. He is long-suffering over you. He wants the blessing to be rich, and full, and sure; give Him time, while you cry day and night. Only remember the word: ‘I say unto you, He will avenge them speedily.’
The blessing of such persevering prayer is unspeakable. There is nothing so heartsearching as the prayer of faith. It teaches you to discover and confess, and give up everything that hinders the coming of the blessing; everything there may be not in accordance with the Father’s will. It leads to closer fellowship with Him who alone can teach to pray, to a more entire surrender to draw nigh under no covering but that of the blood, and the Spirit. It calls to a closer and more simple abiding in Christ alone. Christian! give God time. He will perfect that which concerneth you. ‘Long-suffering—speedily,’ this is God’s watchword as you enter the gates of prayer: be it yours too.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Sunspots 860

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to others*:




Christianity: Christianity Today reports on a study that shows that contemporary worship songs last for a shorter period than they used to. (In other words, they are sung for a while, then dropped.)

Relevant interviews an author who says that, according to the Bible, most views on what happens after death are wrong.

Health: Gizmodo describes some of the things we want to know about the omicron variant of COVID.

Humor:  (or something) FiveThirtyEight asks people when each of the four seasons should start. Whatever your opinion on this, it's in the minority.

Politics: NPR reports that the CIA has published a new edition of its book on the interactions between the CIA and recent presidents. The book is free. As I understand it, it does not include President Joe Biden, presumably because he is not done interacting with the CIA.

Science: Gizmodo and other outlets report on tiny constructions, made from frog stem cells, that can capture food and reproduce, in their own way. Living robots, sort of.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

*I try not to include items that require a password or fee to view.

Thanks for reading.